Ohio Biographies

Daniel W. Voorhees

Daniel W. Voorhees, of Terre Haute, IN, and Senator from that State, was born in Liberty Twp, not far from the old Spring meeting-house, Sep 26, 1827, and was only two months old when his parents removed to Fountain County, IN, where they now reside. His father, Stephen Voorhees, was born in Mercer County, KY, 1798, and emigrated when quite young to Butler County, and in Dec, 1827, moved to the farm in Fountain County, IN, which he now occupies.His grandfather, Peter Voorhees, was born in New Jersey, and soon after the close of the Revolutionary War, emigrated to Kentucky. Peter Voorhees's wife, whose maiden name was Van Arsdale, was born at Brant's Station, then a fort. Her father, Luke Van Arsdale, fought at the battle of Blue Licks, and distinguished himself there and elsewhere against the Indians under Daniel BOONE. His other grandfather, Stephen Voorhees, was a soldier in the Revolutionary army, and fought at Princeton, Monmouth, and other celebrated historic fields. His paternal ancestors came from Holland, the original name being Van Voorhees. Mr. Voorhees's mother, Rachel Elliott, born in MD, of Irish ancestry, was married, in 1821, and still survives. Daniel W. is the third, and was brought up on a farm about ten miles from Covington, IN, remaining there until 1845. In 1845 he entered Asbury University, whence he graduated in 1849.

Soon after graduating he entered the law office of Lane & Willson, at Crawfordsville, and the following Spring settled to practice at Covington, the county seat of Fountain County. Here E. A. Hannegan, formerly United States Senator, having heard him deliver a "Fourth of July" oration, made proposals for a law partnership, taking effect in Apr, 1852. In June, 1853, Mr. Voorhees was appointed by Governor Wright prosecuting attorney of the Circuit Court, in which position he soon established a fine reputation as a criminal lawyer, and broke up a nest of desperadoes whose headquearters were at Lafayette. In 1856 he was nominated by acclamation Democratic candidate for Congress, but was defeated by 230 majority in a district previously Republican by 2,600. In Nov, 1857, he removed to Terre Haute, the county seat of Vigo County, and the ensuing April, 1858, was appointed United states District Attorney for the State of Indiana, by President Buchanan, in which position he increased his reputation as an orator and lawyer. He was elected to Congress in 1860 and 1862, and in 1864 was again a successful candidate, but in this last election his majority was contested by his opponent, Henry D. Washburne, who obtained the seat. In 1866 Mr. Voorhees refused the nomination, but in 1868 he was elected, and again in 1870. In 1872 he was defeated by Morton C. Hunter.

As a precursor of the late war the insurrection at Harper's Ferry, VA, in which John Brown and others were concerned, and for which they were convicted and hung in 1859, will always stand prominent in the history of the country. At that time the gifted A. P. Willard was governor of Indian, and the champion of the Indiana Democracy, and it was with sorrow and dismay that his friends learned that Colonel J. E. Cook, arrested with "Ossawatomie Brown," was a brother of Governor Willard's wife. Governor Willard was not the man to turn his back upon a brother or a friend. His first thought was of "Dan Voorhees," who was then at Vincennes arguing a case before Judge Micael F. Burke. Governor Willard sent a message to Vincennes, and Judge Burke continued the case while Mr. Voorhees immediately started to consult with Governor Willard. Several gentlemen advised him not to undertake the defense, but he emphatically declared his resolution to defend his friend's brother regardless of consequences. He went and took part in that celebrated trial. The result is known. John Brown was convicted of murder and treason, but Mr. Voorhees succeeded in having a Virginia jury convict Cook of murder only, thus bringing him within the pardoning power of the governor. Governor Wise, however, refused to pardon, and Cook was executed with the others. This was, however, the beginning of Mr. Voorhees's national reputation. His speech was listened to by the vast audience with rapt attention, and met with unequealed approbation. He was the recipient of enthusiastic congratulations, and his speech was published all over the country and in Europe. From this time forward he has occupied a conspicuous place in the eyes of the public. At the bar, on the stump, and in the halls of Congress, he has been a man of mark. Mr. Voorhees's political career and principles, his powers as a parliamentary orator and a statesman, are now a portion of the history of the nation.

From the sobriquet of "the tall Sycamore of the Wabash," so often and familiarly applied to Mr. Voorhees, it will be inferred that he is of tall stature. He stands 6 ft and 1inch in height, and weighs over 200 pounds.

In 1850 he married Miss Anna Hardesty, of Greencastle, IN, and they have 4 children. Mr. Voorhees was appointed Nov 6, 1877, to succeed Governor Morton in the United States Senate. The issue in the election of 1878 in Indiana was whether he should be elected by the Legislature to succeed his appointment. On this issue the Legislature pledged to his support was elected by a majority of over 30,000 over all opposition. During his term of service in the Senate he has been assiduous in his attentions to the public needs. He is always present, and allows no measure of political opponents to pass without the severest scrutiny. With him vigilance is the price of liberty. He has recently shown his power of breaking old shackles by speaking for protection to American industry.


From A History and Biographical Cyclopædia of Butler County Ohio, With Illustrations and Sketches of its Representative Men and Pioneers, Western Biographical Publishing Company, Cincinnati Ohio, 1882.